, , ,

Johnson Stands By ‘Imminently Reasonable’ Hold On Supreme Court Nomination

Senator Also In No Hurry To Fill Lower Court Vacancy

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson
Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-NC-ND)

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is standing by his position that the next president should nominate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement, despite poll results indicating most Wisconsin voters disagree.

“I’m a pretty principled guy,” Johnson said at an event in Madison on Wednesday. “I mean what I say.”

Poll results released earlier in the day found 62 percent of Wisconsin voters think the Supreme Court vacancy should be filled this year. Fifty-three percent of voters said they’re less likely to vote for Johnson because of his refusal to consider a nominee.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, polled 1,000 registered voters, with a 3-percent margin of error.

Johnson, however, defended his position as “imminently reasonable.”

“We know what the result would be,” he said. “I think it’s pretty obvious, the type of justice that President (Barack) Obama would nominate.”

He pointed to Obama’s appointments of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as examples of the president’s preference for what Johnson called “super legislators” for the bench, rather than judges.

Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, called the issue a “perilous” one for Johnson.

“There’s really a pretty strong mandate from voters in Wisconsin to fill the Supreme Court seat this year,” Jensen said.

Among independent voters, 67 percent of those surveyed said they want the vacancy filled.

Jensen pointed out that independents will be particularly important to Johnson in November’s U.S. Senate election.

“Obviously, in a state like Wisconsin, where so many voters are Independents, they really often decide elections one way or the other,” he said.

The latest poll from Marquette University, released on Jan. 28, had Johnson polling 13 points behind former Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.

Feingold has said blocking the nomination is irresponsible.

7th Circuit Vacancy

Johnson was also pressured on Wednesday to “end the obstruction” of another judicial nominee.

In a letter made public Tuesday, 48 professors from Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin law schools urged Johnson to allow the appointment of Donald K. Schott to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to move forward.

On Jan. 12, President Obama nominated Schott, of Madison, to fill the longstanding vacancy on the court, which handles federal appeals cases from Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

Because the appointment is from Wisconsin, Senate procedure effectively gives Johnson and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin veto power to block any nominee.

Baldwin supports Schott while Johnson remains uncommitted.

“It’s been vacant for a very long time, the Circuit Court has a lot of work to do and it’s time to make an appointment,” said Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone, one of the faculty members who signed the letter.

Fallone, who lost a race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2013, said the letter was not intended as an attack on Johnson and that he did not believe Johnson planned to block Schott’s nomination.

Johnson, however, left that option open in brief comments to reporters in Madison.

He blamed Baldwin for endangering Schott’s nomination when she forwarded his name to the president without Johnson’s consent.

“She violated the confidentiality of the process and really put that 7th Circuit nominee at risk,” Johnson said.

However, he also called Schott “a good man.”

Baldwin’s office said Schott garnered bipartisan support from a nominating commission that was established by both senators, as well as past presidents of the State Bar of Wisconsin, who penned a letter for support after the appointment.

“If Sen. Johnson doesn’t want to listen to his own nominating commission, a bipartisan group of former State Bar Presidents, and law professors from across the state that is his choice but the people of Wisconsin deserve better than an empty seat on the 7th Circuit,” said John Kraus , spokesman for Baldwin.

The seat in question is the oldest vacancy in the country, predating Johnson’s arrival in the Senate.

The court has played a prominent role in Wisconsin recently, giving the final word on a wide range of controversial issues, from collective bargaining to voter ID.